AE Studio: Customization, Collaboration—and Free Laundry?


American Eagle AE Studio New York Union Square October 2017

American Eagle Outfitters is turning 40 this year but it’s still young at heart—a necessary attitude if it’s going to connect with its youthful target audience. As part of the celebration it’s testing a retail concept in downtown New York, overlooking the youthful hubbub that is Union Square.

Its remodeled store overlooking Union Square will reopen to the public on November 10th as AE Studio. While its existing store was quite crowded and chaotic on the ground floor, the AE Studio space, as seen at a preview party last week, is more curated, more interactive, more engaging—and more fun.

It’s all about creating a memorable brand experience and customer experience. So AE Jeans are front and center on the ground floor’s Jeans Gallery, where shoppers can try and buy jeans from its denim collections.

American Eagle AE Studio New York Atelier & Repairs

The centerpiece is a new collaboration with Atelier & Repairs, reworking and customizing denim and apparel from AE’s previous collections into new pieces that customers can purchase.

Co-founded by Maurizio Donadi, the former SVP of Levi’s XX, Atelier & Repairs upcycles denim into works of art, each imbued with a sustainable fashion philosophy that aims to reduce waste and elevate consumers’ consciousness.

The bespoke collection—each new garment is one of a kind—is priced from $48 to $128 and currently sold at 22 AE stores nationwide including Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Boston and Miami.

AE Studio will also feature denim customization stations and free on-site laundry facilities for neighboring students. The store will also sell NYU produce designed by American Eagle’s sister brand Tailgate, which caters to that cohort.

The overall intent of AE Studio is to create a hub for testing new brand experiences—new kinds of products, and new ways for customers to interact with them, and each other.

“As we celebrate the success of the last four decades, we look ahead to create new brand experiences to inspire today’s customer, and broaden our leadership in jeans,” stated Chad Kessler, American Eagle Outfitters Global Brand President. “AE Studio is a perfect example of our evolution where we invite customers to enjoy a unique brand experience, feel at home, and curate their distinct individual style.”

He added, “We’re the No. 2 jeans retailer in America, and our goal is to be No. 1.The goal for AE Studio is to be a lab for us to see the customer reaction firsthand and learn about our new experience.”

Staying relevant is the new bar to scale in experiential marketing as retailers scramble to meet increased demand from consumers who are fickle in their tastes and precious with their time.

The AE Studio experience includes:

· Jeans Gallery featuring an in-store Maker’s Shop – Customers can shop AE’s extensive jeans collection and create one-of-a-kind pieces. The Maker’s Shop will feature options for customers to personalize their AE Jeans to fit their distinctive style.

· Real-time Social Media Team – AE’s social media team will have an in-store work space to directly engage with customers. Working in the heart of the studio, they’ll create content in real time and keep their finger on the pulse of the brand.

AE Studio / New York / American Eagle / laundry

· Complimentary Laundry Wall – Students are offered a free place to do laundry—a boon to students at nearby New York University and the Parsons School of Design. While they wait, they can hang out with friends or study in the studio bar and seating area and enjoy the view of Union Square.

· Digital Concierge iPads in dressing rooms – Customers can personalize their shopping experience and engage the brand with the tap of their finger.

· Collaboration Space – The space will feature capsule collections co-created with new brands, emerging designers, and artists.

Abt last night @americaneagle !!! #AEstudio launch party #RickRoss #WingStop #unionsquare #AmericanEagle #nyc #Denim

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“For American Eagle, the store is a reflection of the brand’s larger strategy to experiment with new physical retail models and tap into the burgeoning trend of pop-up shops taking the retail industry by storm,” Glossy comments.

“These spaces — which are optimized for social media with custom artwork and innovative design — help raise awareness for new products and drive foot traffic, particularly as the traditional malls where the company once thrived continue to decline.”

“It’s time for American Eagle to look at the volume being generated on a store-by-store basis and make the decision to close those that are underperforming,” analyst Jim Fosina told Glossy. “They should funnel those dollars into more opportunistic in-market opportunities and become more nimble. We are witnessing the beginning of a strategy that could be the new operating model for American Eagle.”

American Eagle has been challenged by competitors, e-commerce and lower sales, but still beat analyst estimates with reports in August of a revenue increase of 3 percent to $845 million.

The company operates more than 1,000 stores across the United States, Canada, Mexico, China and Hong Kong, and ships to 82 countries worldwide. Along with sister brand Aerie’s current pop-up on Spring Street in Soho, American Eagle experimented with athleisure at a pop-up store in Soho last December.

“All of it is about trying to do new things,” Kessler said. “This is a time of change and disruption within retail. We as a company believe that the future of stores will be relevant — people love touching and feeling and trying things on. People love getting to experience and getting a better understanding of the brands that they relate to.”